Interior design requires a deep knowledge of human behavior—physical, psychological, and cultural. The ability to understand and communicate with clients is essential. Designed spaces must support the individual lifestyle and functional needs of our clients.
Any interior space directs human behavior. This is especially true for educational, medical, and business facilities or spaces with social interaction.
The designer’s knowledge of the human factors relating to interior space affects even private spaces, such as residences.
Consider the sensory considerations of how the principles and elements of design work together with acoustics, lighting, visual stimuli, color theory, scent, and tactile qualities to create a design solution. Special populations, including children and older adults, may experience these qualities differently.
Don’t confuse design theory with a design style. Style is an aesthetic, such as Mid-Century Modern. Design theory is a designer’s unique approach to a creative problem-solving process based on one or more of the following:
- Historic precedent
- Human behavior and perception
- A particular process
- Environmental design research and evidence-based design
- A designer’s personal worldview
- Functional needs
Both the elements and principles of design theory are visual building blocks common to all design practices. While the NCIDQ Exam does not focus on aesthetics, these elements and principles influence the physical and sensory elements found within the interior space that impact an occupant’s emotions, health, and overall well-being.
- Harmony and unity
- Contrast and variety
The design of the built environment relies not only on theory but also on the temperament of what’s happening outside of the immediate confines of the project. While more subjective and ever-changing, some not-so-obvious influences include:
- Cultural and societal beliefs
- Political conditions
- Cultural symbolism
- Psychological factors
Economic conditions frequently resonate in interior and architectural design. In times of financial hardship, designs are often more streamlined and subdued.
A more stable, prosperous economy will often substantiate more luxurious designs.
Ergonomics studies the relationships between the human body and the physical environment. It uses anthropometric data as a base but focuses more on the interaction with specific objects and tasks, such as a stovetop for cooking or office workstations.
Anthropometrics focuses on the body’s size, proportion, and range of motion.
Findings are statistically grouped by sex, age, and percentile ratios.
A behavior setting links the effects of the physical environment with the behavior patterns of the people using the space. By knowing the activity in the space and how the users react, the designer can develop programmatic concepts for the project.
Some behavioral components include proxemics and territoriality.
Proxemics describes how people use a space based on circumstance and cultural aspects. We became very familiar with this concept during the pandemic, but did you know it came from anthropology and design? Four different distances are identified in the theory of proxemics:
- Intimate distance
- Personal distance
- Social distance
- Public distance
A means of non-verbal communication in claiming ownership of a space. You’ve likely seen a person sitting at a six-person-sized table at a coffee shop with their belongings strewn about, letting others know this is “their space” and their unwillingness to share.